Search

12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

Tag

mslexia

Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation

Last night at around 11.15pm I decided that it was time to call it quits on book five and get myself some sleep.  I battered out a few paragraphs to remind myself what I wanted the last couple of chapters to entail, and set about organising my packed lunch for work.  Tuna salad, for those who are nosey about such things…

The word count stands at 30323, and I think it’ll end end up around 36,000 by the time the first draft is finished.  This means that overall this year, I’ve written 165,585 words of fiction across 151 days.  That averages out at 1096.6 words per day, although there have been days when I haven’t written anything at all, and a few when I’ve done 10k in one go.  Averages, dear reader, are relative.

Continue reading “Not-Quite-Half-Way Evaluation”

Advertisements

Q&A with Ian Collings

This week I’m chatting to Shropshire based writer Ian Collings, who tweets as @ibc4 and blogs at Take One Step Back.  I’ve split this email into a Q&A format.

Which part of the writing process (condensed as it is into such a short period) do you find the hardest?  The editing? Re-writing? 

Because the writing process is condensed into such a short period with this project, editing and re-writing don’t actually get a look in.  Not yet, anyway.  The plan was to leave all the drafts for a minimum of 3 months before going back to look over them, but so far I haven’t had the time to go back and start editing any.  The hardest part of the writing process with this is therefore the purely practical aspect of fitting in writing time – when I sit down and do it, it’s a race against time to get the words out there so I just write and write, even if some of it’s nonsense.  These first drafts are littered with asides like “she said, by way of exposition,” which all add to the word count!  But generally speaking I think editing and re-writing are much harder work.

Secondly, have you ever wanted to ‘throw in the towel’ and walk away from  twelve books in twelve months?  Or, rather just concentrate on one through to publication there and then?
So far I haven’t wanted to walk away from the project at any point, although I’ve had to let go of the notion that I’ll make the 50k word count every time.  I think because I haven’t given myself the opportunity to get bored of it or even to get stuck by overthinking (there’s no time to think, after all!) that’s made it quite easy to keep going.  If I was reading back over it all the time I’d probably feel a crushing sense of doom about how much work there is still left to do on all of them, but the no-editing rule means I can just go yeah, I’ve written most of a book, go me! Now onto the next one!
How have other writers supported you? Have any derided your ‘project’?
Nobody has derided the project, although Debbie Taylor (Editor of Mslexia and author of The Fourth Queen) was a bit disbelieving when I told her about it at first.  She tends to write for a maximum of about a fortnight before having to take a break from it.  I haven’t really talked to a lot of authors about it yet though, although my intention is to do a series of author interviews on how they approach writing for book 13 (the one where I write about writing 12 books in 12 months).  Ian Rankin wished me luck on Twitter at the very beginning, which was kind of him, and I know from an interview I read with him that he drafted the first Rebus book in about a month – the difference there being that he didn’t then do the next 11 in quick succession, I guess!

I’ve had a lot of support from other people though, especially on Twitter.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s a slightly mad thing to do, but in a good way!

And finally, for today only, if you could take the credit for writing any book from the last hundred years, which would it be? Which of your current works in progress most resemble it?
The book I’d like to take credit for writing… brilliant question.  A difficult one, as well – there are lots.  I think maybe The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusack, because it was so clever and well written and made me cry – which is really rare, actually.  None of my books resemble it in the slightest, though!

Inspiration

A second email from Elaine of Dreams and Whispers fame.

Next I would like to find out a bit more about your inspiration for the twelve books – did you already have ideas before you started, or are you taking it book by book and seeing what develops for each one? As you write, do you find that most of your theme/plot/character ideas are coming from things you encounter in life, people you meet, your imagination, or somewhere else?

I had a few ideas before starting, many of which are laid out on the ‘Get Involved‘ page and in the Facebook photo album.  I went into it with the hope that members of the public would challenge me by giving me different suggestions to incorporate as I went along, giving the project a more interactive feel but also forcing me to plan things so that I’d include all their ideas.

As it happens, I think a lot of people find it intimidating to have me say ‘just suggest anything at all’.  For instance with book 2, where I got suggestions from staff at The Byre Theatre in St Andrews, basically everything I got was anecdotal stuff about working in a theatre.  Nobody seemed interested in motive, murder weapon, or red herrings, and I ended up going on Twitter when I’d already started writing to ask people to suggest names for characters I’d just invented.  This meant that the book developed much more out of my own brain than I think I expected.

At the other extreme, with the Western story I got a very in depth story suggestion from someone, but I ended up not using it because it would have required an awful lot of historical research on my part – the suggester obviously knew quite a bit of the history of the west and had some very specific ideas, which frankly I felt a bit dodgy about using!  So hopefully he will write it himself one day!  It helped me though, because when I read it I realised that a traditional story like that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do, and came up with what I think was quite a strong idea to work from.

For paranormal romance I think the only suggestion I got was a name and occupation for the central character.  I used the name, Jennifer, but changed the occupation very slightly.  I hadn’t planned for it to be paranormal to begin with, and was hoping to do quite a bittersweet story.  I changed my mind to challenge myself – I’ve never quite got the appeal of paranormal romance and have slagged it off a bit, so I thought why not put my money where my mouth is and see if I can do any better.  With all that dithering, though, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference if people had suggested things or not – I had a definite, but at the same time very woolly, plan!

This month is fantasy, and I’ve had a couple of pretty good suggestions for that – clearly it’s a genre that readers of this blog can relate to!  But even then they’re basically character suggestions, so it’ll be me that thinks of the plot, dialogue, narrative and so on.  That sounds like a complaint – it isn’t!  I love making things up – this would be a very strange project to be doing if I didn’t.

I am definitely taking it book by book.  I have to, really.  So far there hasn’t been time to plan any further ahead than that, and in most cases I’ve not even written an outline till I’ve got about 20k in.

None of my characters are directly based on anyone real, but there are elements of dialogue and characterisation which do draw a lot from encounters I’ve had or exchanges I’ve heard in real life.  The first line of my first book, for instance, was, “Nah mate, that’s lies!” because it was something I heard every single day from the kids that came in to my place of work.  For some reason most of my settings have been Scotland so far as well, although that was quite unintentional.

Having said that, I don’t think there’s a huge amount of point in ‘writing what I know’ verbatim.  I recently read an interview with Susan Hill in Mslexia Magazine where she pointed out that the whole point of reading fiction was to escape from the mundanity of every day life, so of course you should write everything from the imagination.  Who really cares about a character who is trying to make it as a freelance journalist whilst also writing fiction and occasionally arguing with her boyfriend about whose go it is to do the dishes?!  But occasionally real stuff bleeds through – hopefully funny, insightful or interesting things, though!

A Reading

Here, for your delight and delectation, is a second reading continuing your introduction to The Ugly Man. He does have a name, but you don’t get to know what it is yet.

http://audioboo.fm/boos/338172-ugly-man-excerpt-2

In other news, I wrote another guest post for Mslexia, if you would like to have a read.

Research

I’ve done bugger all research for this book, and as yet I haven’t had time to come up with any sort of outline, let alone a chapter plan. Nevertheless I’ve steamed on and written around 10k so far, most of which is actual fiction as opposed to stream of consciousness padding.  I’m not sure whether my voice comes through in the same way as it has done with the last couple of books, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In the last issue of Mslexia, Susan Hill gave an interview in which she suggested that ‘write what you know’ is a load of old cobblers.  Who would want to read about the minutiae of your daily life, she asks. Surely the point of fiction is to take you away from such mundanity?  Writers ought to use their imagination.

A somewhat cynical look at the already fading Paranormal Romance genre may not be entirely what she was getting at, but a certain amount of imagination is required to write about a teenage vampire.  I’m not immortal, or overly sensitive to UV, and I didn’t spend those formative teen years sucking blood.  Well, not any more than is normal for young persons of that age range.  So most of this is going to have to be made up.

Still, I’m a bit worried about running into clichés.  The imagination is influenced by what you’ve seen and read, which means that the more research I’ve carried out the better because I can avoid doing things that have already been done.  Unfortunately I’m limited to ironic viewings of the Twilight movies, 3 episodes of Being Human, and half a short story.  I am, therefore, a mite concerned that my imagination will tread paths already trod.  Frinstance I have been leaning towards sticking a werewolf in there – like that hasn’t been done to death.

Unless I think of an original twist.  Maybe it could be a werewolf FROM SPACE.  M. Night Shyamalan eat your heart out…

Confession

You may have guessed from the comparative blog silence that book 3 has been going pretty slowly.

I am currently out of the house at my temp job between 7.30 and 5.30 Tuesday-Friday, which gives me evenings, weekends and Mondays for this and other stuff.  Unfortunately I am juggling a bit more of the other stuff than usual at the moment.

For instance,  I said to STV Local “sure, I’ll profile all 21 bands involved in the Sick Kids Charity CD I wrote about for you” – which means setting up interviews with 21 bands, and trying to ask them all slightly different questions so that all the articles don’t wind up being the same. This means quite a bit of prep, and of course it takes time to write these things up.

I had another article commissioned by IdeasTap too, but the interviewee is very busy and hasn’t had time to answer my second round of questions – so essentially I can only file when there’s a gap in her schedule, which almost certainly won’t coincide with gaps in mine.

I’m also supposed to be setting up weekly Ten Tracks blogposts, which will hopefully get done today, and likewise I think I’m overdue a Mslexia update (although the onus is on me – there’s no set pattern agreed for those).  I’m also awaiting the answers from an email interview for an article for The Edinburgh Reporter, and need to send out some more for a different article I’d intended to have done for this week.

I’ve blown off several social events to give myself writing time, but it hasn’t been enough.  I think that logically, sleep now has to go!

Today being Monday 21st, if I was sticking in any way to the 2k daily word target I should be on 42, 000 words – barely any to go before 50k.  As it is, my word count is 8, 519.

If I can bash out 3,771 words a day between now and the end of the month it’ll be fine – theoretically that should only take a couple of hours because I know what I’m doing with the story and when I’m in the zone I type pretty fast.  But where to find those daily 2-3 hours?  In evenings this week I have at least 3 face to face interviews to do, which means travelling to various bits of Edinburgh, so maybe I can get some done on the bus – depending how much interview prep I’ve managed to get through already.  And I can do some in my lunch breaks, I guess.

I’ve also got to go to a gig on Thursday, because most of the bands I need to catch up with will be there; and a cocktail party on Friday because several people I blew off last weekend will be there and I can’t do it again.  The point of this project is universal adulation, not pissing off all my friends and acquaintances…

So anyway, I’m finding it a bit hard to get book-writing time shoehorned into my schedule just now (and don’t even get me started on reading time, because it makes me feel sad), but I’m going to schedule a few #WIP type posts from the meagre amount I do have for this week so that I don’t leave you hanging.  Next weekend I think there’s going to have to be a night of writing dangerously.

Also, if anyone has any thoughts on how to pre-empt the intevitable RSI that my writing lifestyle is surely going to cause before the end of 2011, do leave a comment!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: